Robert Peston: “it will be squeaky bum time in government buildings all over Europe.”

The BBC’s business editor, and still everyone’s hero, Robert Peston, identifies the reasons why Europe continues to prescribe medication, rather than opting for untested, and risky, surgery.  At least for now.  From the Peston’s Picks blog

There seem to be three reasons.

First, in Germany, it is apparently politically more acceptable to provide rescue finance to Greece directly than to rescue German banks that foolishly and greedily bought Greek debt for its relatively high yield.

Second, a Greek debt restructuring would be a severe blow to eurozone pride in the strength of the currency union.

Third, a Greek haircut might be the thin end of a large wedge. If it created a precedent for haircuts in Portugal and Ireland, the losses for the eurozone’s banks would begin to look serious. But again, if there were just a trio of national debt haircuts, if the rot were to stop with Ireland and Portugal, eurozone governments could afford to shore up and recapitalise their banks.

That said, what the eurozone could not afford – or so regulators fear – would be haircut contagion to the likes of Spain and Italy.

But Spain and Italy are looking in better shape. Spain, for example, is taking steps to strengthen its second tier banks and its banks in general have become less dependent on funding from the European central bank (which is a proxy for their perceived weakness).

So here, I think, will be what will determine whether Greece gets its haircut in the next two or three months: if eurozone governments come to believe that Spain is well past the moment of maximum risk of financial crisis, there will be a bold restructuring of Greek debt.

But, to use that awful footballing expression, if they do go for a Greek debt haircut or writedown, it will be squeaky bum time in government buildings all over Europe.

Read the whole thing.